Staff spotlight: From athleticism to advocacy, an 890km cycle for mental health

05 Mar 2024

***This story mentions suicide which may be distressing to readers*** 

When Alex Wood lost his father to suicide in 2015, he was driven to improve mental health outcomes for all.  

This quickly manifested into Alex and his friend Enzo D’Ambrogio who also lost his father to suicide, registering for their first Zoo 2 Zoo charity cycle in 2016.  

The Zoo 2 Zoo fundraiser is a gruelling six-day cycle from Melbourne Zoo to Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium, to raise money for the Black Dog Institute. Eight years later, the charity cycle has become a meaningful feat of athleticism that the pair face annually.  

The Black Dog Institute is the only medical research institute to investigate mental health for all ages. The institute is dedicated to understanding, preventing, and treating significant mental health challenges.  

One in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year. That estimates to five million people. What is worse, is roughly 60 per cent of those people will not seek help.  

Furthermore, suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44. 

It is these statistics that motivate Alex to push through his rigorous training and 890km cycle.  

Mental health is so important and has got to be a feature of our everyday life. We need to be kind to ourselves and inform ourselves of the services that exist,” says Alex, Senior Advisor to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching). 

In the new ANU Enterprise Agreement, the University has included up two days of wellbeing leave per calendar year, which are designated days where a staff member can access their personal leave to focus on their own mental and physical wellbeing 

Alex says this new initiative is “really wonderful and encouraging to see as it starts to embed the importance of mental health in everything that we do.” 

Alex and Enzo embarked on their 8th Zoo 2 Zoo charity cycle on 2 March and will reach Canberra on 7 March.  

“What gets me across is being in the moment and realising why I am here supporting this. It’s thinking about my dad, and how I hope this makes some difference for others down the track,” Alex says.  

The duo has a shared fundraising goal of $5,000, with Zoo 2 Zoo aiming to raise a total of $100,000 in 2024.  

Over their eight years of participation Alex and Enzo have jointly raised over$33,000 for the Black Dog Institute.  

“The goals are important to set as they provide extra drive and motivation, and it is exceptional when these are exceeded. It is great where and when people can give to this worthy cause because all funds raised go to supporting Black Dog Institute’s mental health research, education programs and support services,” Alex says.  

Alex and Enzo’s donation page can be found here 


ANU offers counselling and advisory services for staff members and immediate family members through the Employee Assistance Program 

The Black Dog institute is not a crisis centre. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 000, or Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.